Tuesday, May 29, 2007

If I Had A Camera...

I could show you the progress I've made on the Fabric of Life challenge quilt! I have pieced the two fat quarters into a central panel for the top and added a border made from a single fat quarter of another African print already in my stash. I fooled around with other fabrics for additional borders but nothing has really worked so far. I made some wonky Hourglass blocks and tried those in various positions around the top. I went out and bought two more fabrics I thought might work. Now that they have been washed and pressed and a few pieces cut I'm not so sure they will work afterall. (Naturally!) This has been two days of effort. I've enjoyed every minute of it but I'm tired and done for today. I will look at it again tomorrow (or the next day; my menfolk are due home late tonight). Hopefully some wonderful solution will present itself at that time.

I have been trying to create this top in a completely improvisational or intuitive way. I ripped rather than rotary cut fabrics when I could. I have used a ruler to guide my rotary cutter but have refrained from measuring as much as possible. In the past I have tried scissor-cutting but found my hands too wobbly (or my scissors too sharp!) to get the results I desire. I'm going for mostly straight seams here, not curved piecing. ;- )

An interesting phenomenon has occurred over the last few months. I have been doing mostly crazy patch blocks/projects or other intuitive piecing when I have not been engaged in finishing off old projects. (I piece onto a foundation - usually - when I am piecing a crazy block but I don't use a pattern for the patches or the placement of the patches.) Now I find that I have no desire whatsoever to make traditionally pieced blocks. No more precision cutting or sewing for me! Not for the time being anyway. (Never say never!) The Perfectionist in me still wants things to line up just so and be as neat as possible, but at least the child in me has a stronger voice these days and gets to play more. I call that progress.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

All Quiet in the Magpie's Nest

...a little too quiet.

I was so looking forward to having the house to myself this weekend. Unfortunately my body seems to have the upper hand at the moment and I have been unable to take full advantage of the opportunity. I finally feel like I am beginning to regain control but only time will tell.

I have been receiving the June issues of my favorite magazines in the mail this week. Too bad I can't read them. Each day I put the newest one on the dining table and page through it while standing up. I can feel the fumes from the inks permeate my nose and sinus cavities. Sure enough, I soon have a new headache, followed by the rest of the exposure symptoms. DH is going to have to engineer a reading box for me. Something the books and magazines can go into with a clear top and some kind of mechanism that will allow me to turn the pages. I've learned that my carbon-filter mask is insufficient to protect me from this kind of exposure. We may have to buy new cartridges for the paint respirator mask so I can give that a try (while DH is building me a reading box). {sigh}

On a happier note, I am participating in a project called "Fabric for Life." This is a fabric challenge that will become an exhibit and eventually an auction fundraiser, the proceeds of which will benefit the Fabric of Life Foundation and the Here Je Center in Mali, West Africa. Each participant has purchased fabric that is produced in Mali by girls and women who are using micro-loans to start and operate businesses that will allow them to support themselves and their families. Since I was unable to attend the meeting where the fabrics were first presented, I asked for and was sent three fat quarters "that sort of go together" to play with. These are the three I received and I am delighted with them! I have chosen to keep one fat quarter for myself (the one with the wavy diagonal lines) because I like it so much (and I may try to buy more!); the other two will go into my challenge quilt. I have already cut one print up into roughly rectangular pieces. My thinking is that I will use the FQ that reads as a solid orange (but is actually a kind of tone-on-tone stripe) around these rectangles somehow. They may get built up into Log Cabin units or I may just use the orange as a kind of sashing. I pulled some of my African prints out of my stash the other day so I can play around with them and see what works with these two challenge fabrics. My first thought was to just surround the rectangles with the orange and then use a narrow inner border and wider outer border to finish it off. Seems too easy though. There's also the internal debate about whether to make something with fabric only or to make something I could bead embellish. The finished quilt has to be at least 18" square but no more than 48" square, with the challenge fabric(s) comprising 25% of the top surface of the quilt. I think I'm more tempted to go Gee's Bend with this than bead embellishing...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Cream of the Crop!

Last night I was so jazzed by Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough winning "Dancing With the Stars" - as so rightly they should have! - that I couldn't go to sleep even though my body had been crying out for some shut-eye for hours. Instead I came up with a brilliant idea for a donation to the Hospice auction: "Hugs & Kisses for Hospice." I would make some more X's and O's, arrange them in a four-patch, build them up Log Cabin style if necessary, and make one or two pillows out of them. I could see it in bright happy colors, a la Sassenach's quilt for her daughter. It would be quick and fun and easily machine quilted (which, for some reason, I was now willing to do). Got out of bed to jot down these ideas and make a note to buy more fiberfill and then was able to go to sleep finally.

This morning I had the good sense to call Hospice to find out whether there was still time to make a donation to this year's auction. What do you think the answer was? Yup, I missed it by one day. They sent the program to the printer yesterday. Chalk up another one for Procrastination! Unless I use this as an opportunity to get a headstart on next year's donation... Any bets as to whether I'll follow through on this opportunity? ;- )

So the silk heart block can be put aside for the time being. I found a black paisley tone-on-tone cotton print in my stash that I like with the silks. I could use it to frame or border the block. I have also been thinking I might make three more blocks out of ties, use the cotton to sash (and stabilize) them, and make a wall hanging. We'll see. There's no hurry now. It also occurred to me to use this block as a learning experience and keep the next silk tie effort smaller. Maybe even piece onto a foundation. (I wasn't thinking clearly when I started sewing yesterday or I probably would have pieced onto a foundation. I was just working to distract myself from my physical discomfort.)
I have added a leaf to the vine on Vivian's round robin block. There was an empty spot I just couldn't live with. I had originally left it empty in an attempt to leave room for someone else to bead the nearby seams. I must not have been thinking straight then either. (This is a distressing pattern I see developing!)

DS#2 is frantically working to finish the details on a Star Wars costume replica for his brother who is flying up from Arizona tonight. To that end we made a trip to our local thrift shops yesterday afternoon to look for potential "tools" or whatever goes on the belt that Han Solo wears in the original trilogy of movies. He didn't find anything, but I did! It's the darling little cream pitcher you see in the picture at the top of the page. They had five teacups, without their saucers, and this pitcher. The teacups are what caught my eye. They were such a pretty shape. But I gave away nearly all of my teacups a couple of years ago and these didn't have saucers. That's when I noticed the creamer. Not the prettiest shape, relative to some others I own, but the print won me over. So much so that I paid more for it than I thought was reasonable. (Couldn't have been too unreasonable as I did pay for it afterall!) I went home a happy camper. And then Apolo and Julianne won. It was a great night!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heart for Hospice?

Went to the chiropractor this morning for another cranial adjustment. I'm surprised at how much better I feel than the last time. I have a sort of generalized headache (not the kind that an analgesic will remove unfortunately) and other low level symptoms but I'm able to function (can't spell but at least I can sit at the computer and hit the keys). Last time I was a zombie on the couch after my adjustment. This is significant progress.

To keep my mind off my misery I have been creating this free-pieced heart. It's just one block that currently measures 11.5" x 14.5" and is made out of two silk neckties from our local thrift shops. Of course it has evolved differently from what I anticipated when I first began working on it this morning but that's the nature of intuitive piecing! This was sort of an experiment to see what would happen if I used silk ties in this way. I'm hoping to turn it into something I can donate for our local Hospice fundraising auction that's right around the corner. Right now the internal debate is whether to make it into a pillow or a wall hanging. I had originally wanted something I could hand embellish. That would be appropriate for a wall hanging. The silk is so soft that if I make it into a pillow I'd like it to continue to be soft enough to rest a cheek on, which pretty much eliminates the use of beads and other 3-D embellishments and may even require machine quilting. I'm not in the mood for machine quilting at the moment. Although, the silk is so darn slippery that I may be forced to do some machine stitching just to hold things in place while I do whatever else I decide to do. My frugal Scots-Irish heritage is playing into this decision too. Things are "more valuable" if they are useful. No-one needs a wall hanging, but a pillow could be put to good use if need be. {sigh} I need to conjure up the mentoring spirit of Pam Kellogg to get me over this hump. She has the gift of being able to forge ahead with whatever she feels is right for whatever she is currently working on. And the woman is prodigous. She just goes with whatever makes her happy in the moment without a care for what anyone else may think. Oh that I could be a fraction of that free-spirited!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vivian's Round Robin Block

Okay. I'm done now. I counted up the seams and patches still available on this block yesterday and decided there would still be plenty of room left for others to play if I decorated another seam. It just looked too empty to send on the way it was. Like I hadn't done enough. I can see someone else adding to the heart motif - working around it as it were - to fill up that patch but I didn't feel up to it myself. So I picked another seamline and some more beads and did some more stitching today. Now I'm happier. I like the block better, and stitching put me in a better mood. ;- )

The first thing I did was to create that garland of white flower buttons and green leaf beads in the upper right corner of the block. You'll notice that there are two sizes of flower buttons. (Or maybe you won't. It's a little hard to see in this photo.) Remember I said the store didn't have the size I wanted? I think this actually turned out better that what I would have done had I had more buttons in the original size.

Next I stitched on the little crocheted heart and embellished it. Those leaves were fun (on either side of the flower bead on top of the heart) so I decided to do some more on a vine/tree going up the right side of the block. I tried to be mindful of leaving room for others to put beads in around the center patch. There's one leaf that could be problematic. If necessary it could be cut out fairly easily I think.

It's hard to keep in mind that our blocks will all go through a gangly, adolescent stage during which they may not look their best. Based on past experience with round robin projects, however, they all come out beautifully in the end!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Minimal Progress

The sun has gone away and we're back to gray rainy weather. Wish I could send some of this to the southeastern US where it would be put to good use!

I embellished one seam of Vivian's bead RR block last night. Physically I felt pretty well yesterday morning but I sure had a hard time getting moving on anything. Finally I figured out - sort of - what I wanted to do on Vivian's block and decided that I needed to go to the bead shop to see if I could find what I wanted there. I found plenty, of course! Used up about half of the gift certificate I'd received for Mother's Day (but not all on things for V's block!). Then when I got home and started working on it plans changed naturally. I ended up going back out to get more of a certain button I wanted to use but didn't have enough of. Do you think the store had that size of the button I wanted in stock? Of course not! Bought two packages of the next larger size (and some other buttons that were on sale - do you see a pattern here?) to see if I could put them to use somehow. I'm actually quite pleased with the results... which I will show you later. I have decided to also add a motif to a patch. We'll see how that goes... ;- )

My DH and our sons are planning to drive to Idaho over Memorial Day weekend to visit with DH's parents and sibling and family. Much as I might like to I will not be going, for health reasons. What this means is that any shopping that is done in stores I can no longer frequent will have to be done before they leave. Any pictures I may want for my blog will have to be taken and downloaded into the computer before they leave as well. I discovered yesterday that I cannot take pictures of the bed quilts we own in a way that satisfies me. So you may get a few pix of quilts with my DS standing behind it, holding it up! Or you may only see the wall hangings I've done. Or maybe I'll learn how to import pictures from off the web. Who knows?

Today's quilt is a wall hanging I designed last year for a retreat class I taught. I didn't get it quilted until this year (don't tell me you're surprised) as I wasn't sure how I wanted to quilt it. Finally I just gave up and stitched in the ditch to get it done and it's fine. There are some anomalies in the binding application I'm not happy with but I'm not taking it off to try to correct them! Galloping horse at 10 yards and all that. Even with it hanging on the living room wall for the last few months I have to say I really haven't noticed them. (Of course I don't spend a whole lot of time in the living room, and when I do I usually have my back to the wall 'cause I'm watching TV. Details!) It will be coming down soon as I see this as a Spring quilt and I sense Summer right around the corner - in spite of the rain {grump}.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blogger Junkie

It's official. Six weeks after discovering blogs I'm now a blogger junkie. (Has it even been 6 weeks?) DH was working at the computer station here at home yesterday and I got all put out because I couldn't get to the computer myself to check the blogs I read every day or to post to my own. {sigh} Guess we're going to have to find a set up for my studio so this sort of thing won't happen again ;- )

Fortunately I'm in a much better mood now, partly because I was able to get together with a few like-minded souls in a safe environment. Said like-minded souls are fellow fiber artists who live in the area. One of them lives in a rural setting atop a high hill at the edge of the valley in which we live (up above most of the contaminants). She is also very conscientious about keeping fragrance and other toxins out of her studio when she knows I'm coming, bless her heart (and the rest of her too!). The five of us commiserate about the things that keep us from being more creative/prolific, we support each other in our individual endeavors, and we work to keep each other on track or accountable for the things we've said we're going to do. As far as I'm concerned, we don't meet nearly often enough! We do check in with each other every two weeks via the internet but the face-to-face meetings are so much more rewarding. At least for me. The rest of them have lives to live (jobs, younger children at home, community service, etc.); I have the luxury of time. Not that I use it any better than anyone else. Squander might be a good word to use for my consumption of time... or fritter (and I'm not talking apple here either). I console myself that when I appear to be doing little with my hands I am very busy in my head. To that end I'd like to announce that I believe I have come up with the topic of my next journal quilt. I don't think I'll tell you exactly what it is - although my compadres already know - but rather let you wait and see what develops. You may have to wait a few days as I have to put the binding on the dorm quilt I've been helping to create. Or maybe I'll create the journal top and stew over the embellishments while I apply and stitch down the binding... It's so wonderful to have options! (And to finally feel good again. It's been a rough week physically.)
The sun has been shining. I love it when the sun shines :- ) Reilly doesn't care one way or the other. He just looks cute standing in my patch of buttercups. These buttercups are technically a weed in this part of the country but they're much prettier than most of the other weeds in my yard.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Journal Quilt #1

But first things first. I had a lovely Mother's Day. (They seem to get better as my children get older, oddly enough. {wink, wink}) Nothing warms my heart more than to see that my adult children are happy and healthy and progressing with their lives. I was really worried about DS#1 as I thought he might be homeless again. I hadn't heard from him in two weeks when he called on Mother's Day. Turns out he won't be homeless anytime soon afterall (whew!). He plays drums, you see, and his housemates were tired of the noise. (He plays very well but it does get loud.) He and his bandmates have rented a practice studio, complete with carpeting on the walls and ceiling, so that solves that problem. Meanwhile, DD and family technically are homeless as they are between houses. SIL is in the Navy; they are waiting for base housing to open up. But they are able to stay with SIL's mother for the ten days or so that they were told they would have to wait. So they are okay. Third child is still living at home - we won't go into that - so I know he's okay too. He and his dad went out Saturday and procured gift certificates for me to my local bead and fabric shops and bought me two bars of the expensive organic chocolate I can eat. So it all turned out well in the end. :- )

Now about that first journal quilt... I had wanted to do a series of quilts for some time. I now have the time, thanks to MCS. But where to start? What direction to purue? I knew I wanted to work intuitively as that is my favorite way to work. I decided on an 8.5" x 11" vertical format (not without much deliberation I assure you!). I also decided to include my current favorite shade of green in each journal quilt as I'd heard that green is the color of healing and renewal. And I wanted to give myself permission to play with my beads and found objects.

My original goal was to make 10 quilts in 12 months. I figured that extra two months would compensate for the way Life tends to get in the way of our plans. In the last few days I have signed on to be a part of the Bead Journal Project (check out Robin Atkins' blog Beadlust) so now I am committed to 12 quilts in 12 months. Based on the success I've had with my first two journal quilts I think I'll be okay. (Do I hear evil snickering in the background?!)

My journal quilts will be pieced by machine and embellished by hand. I haven't machine quilted either of the first two but am open to that technique if it is called for in the future. So far I have bead-quilted them for lack of a better term. I create the top (the front of the quilt) and lay that on top of a piece of Warm & Natural batting. Then I stitch the beads on, going through the batting and the fabric. Once I have all the embellishments on I apply the backing and binding. If I feel an area needs extra support I can always put in a few tacking stitches through all three layers.

Subject matter for these journal quilts is the big sticking point for me. It's all well and good to work intuitively, but it sure helps me to have some sort of goal or purpose in mind as I work. I'm not particularly inspired by all the "normal" things that inspire artists. Sure, I could do landscapes or leaves or whatever but I wouldn't be enthusiastic about it. And one of the things I think the MCS is here to teach me is to pay attention to myself and my needs. So these journal quilts are probably going to be an exploration of who and what I am, what makes me happy, that sort of thing.

I find it fascinating that I have a passion for working with needle and thread and that my birth initials spell the word 'sew'. (My sister's birth initials spell 'law' and I think she would have made a good lawyer. Of course that leaves my poor brothers completely out of luck as their initials don't spell anything at all!) Having recently discovered Tonya's blog, Lazy Gal Quilting, I thought a good place to start might be by creating my birth initials using her free piecing tutorial. That took care of 3/4 of the quilt. I rummaged around in my bits and pieces of randomly pieced fabrics and found a free-form Log Cabin block to fill in the last quarter. I beaded around the letters (covering up some of the wonderful wonkiness of them unfortunately) and then had to figure out what to do with the Log Cabin block...

I outline stitched the seamlines in a varigated floss - another favorite technique - and then got into my beads. S, E, and W are not only my birth initials, they create the command, "sew." Reacting to that I used my letter beads to finish the command - or encouragement, as the case may be. When I was a little girl my aunts called me Susie. The one surviving aunt still does. I don't feel like a Susie, but the endearment makes me feel loved so I thought it would be appropriate to use on this piece. Then I included the charms to remind me to use my imagination, trust my instincts, and create something fun. The final touch was the "bluebird of happiness" sequin, once again reminding me that sewing/stitching makes me happy.

It's my own personal motivational poster!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

and now... Heeere's Reilly!

Hugs and Kisses for Reilly is officially done. It is bound and has a sleeve and everything. ;- ) As I was recording this momentous event in my sketchbook/journal I noticed that tomorrow is exactly one month from the day I finished my first journal quit! That means I'm on track for one journal quilt per month for two consecutive months! Hurray for me!!! The question now is, what do I do next? The last two journal quilts (which just so happen to also be the first two journal quilts!) were motivated by my desire to try out free pieced letters. Do I want to do more of those or move on to something else? I'm going to mull it over for a bit and see what develops.

I don't know if I mentioned if before but the X's and O's didn't turn out quite as wonky as I'd hoped they would on this. And then the beading covers up the seamlines so you really can't see how the cross bars of the X's are offset. Oh well. I'm happy with it as it is. I had fun trying to come up with embellishments that worked off of the markings in the print around the dog image. If you click on it for the larger picture you can probably see the different things I did. Some bugle beads, some stacked beads, some sequins. And seed beads all around the dog itself. To replicate Reilly's tail I used a wired eyelash trim. Decided that it would be too much to do that to the ears as well. You wouldn't be able to see the dog's face at all!
I will be posting a photo and the story of my first journal quilt soon - I promise! And I have a bunch of other quilts to share with you. I don't want to give up too much in one day or one post because I don't want to run out of material for this blog!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bead RR, Reilly, and the Chiropractor

Can you even see what I've done to Joann's block? First I stitched on the taupe floral applique which has some beads on it. Then I beaded the seam coming off the large salmon-y patch on the left. I alternated green and pink beads until I got to the upholstery print where I switched to blue beads instead of pink. The blue looked much better on that fabric. I desperately wanted to do more of the green and pink against that lovely white but it took me a while to figure out which of the remaining two seams to do so that it would look cohesive. When I found the green celluloid button in my stash I had my answer. I didn't want to bead that whole long seam along the top edge of the upholstery print and the button gave me a stopping point. But then I wanted to make some fringe coming out of the holes of the button. Even went to the bead shop to look for the right color. When I got home and tried it it just didn't work. (That's one of the things I love about sewing: you can undo your work without harming the project... usually!) So after a couple of false starts I ended up using two beads out of the tube I bought (!) and another pink bead to fancy up the button a bit. Now that block goes on to Ellen and I get to work on Vivian's next. I think I will wait a few days before tackling it though.

I have also been working on "Hugs & Kisses for Reilly." I have completed beading around the bottom O, have added an eyelash-type wired trim for his tail, and then accented areas around the dog image with more beading. I think I'm ready to back and bind it. I originally thought I'd be putting more of the trim on the ears but now I think that might be too much.

It just occurred to me that you have not yet seen a picture of the dog himself! Let's see if I can get that on here as well...

Isn't he handsome! You can get a sense of what his tail is like from this photo. I tried and tried to get him to pose with his tail up, over his back, but of course that didn't happen. This seemed the best of the lot. I'm sure you'll be seeing more of him in the future...

Went to the chiropractor yesterday afternoon. She had recently attended a seminar for cranial adjustments and learned that she may be able to help me with my MCS. The first time she did cranial adjustments on me it was a busy day in the clinic and I'd been exposed to multiple toxins before she even got to me so we couldn't tell whether the adjustments had had any effect. I know for a fact that what she did yesterday had an effect! It was quite interesting actually. It wasn't pleasant, by any means, because the rest of the day (and still today to some extent) I felt like I was dealing with a severe reaction. If I understand correctly the manipulations released toxins that are stored in the head. So I did have a reaction. It just started from the top of my head and worked its' way down my neck rather than beginning in my nasal cavaties and working its' way up. I may go in once a month for additional treatments. She said I could come in twice a month but I'm not sure I want to go through that more often! (Can you say zombie? I napped shortly after coming home, zoned out in front of the TV for a few hours, and then went to bed and slept for another 11 hours!)

By the way, thanks for the comments. And thanks to Tonya (LazyGalQuilting) for helping me get that set up so you could comment! Now I have to figure out how to do links...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sewing Is My Salvation

I have done most of the work I'm going to do on Joann's Bead Round Robin block but I'm not going to post a picture until I am all done. Had to go out and get beads for the last embellishment I want to do. (oh darn! hehe) I should be stitching on it instead of wasting time at the computer. (I've been doing a lot of blog surfing before landing on my own.) But I am not fully recovered from the exposure I suffered yesterday. Made the mistake of going into a store that I know from past experience is lethal. Idiot! You'd think I'd have learned by now that I am not, in fact, immune with my mask on. Or that "just a quick trip" will not affect me. {sigh} There's no such thing as a "quick trip" in some stores, and even 5 minutes is too long. I know this and I do it anyway! I act like a teenager sometimes, thinking I'm invincible. Some of us never learn. (Or simply refuse to accept reality.)

It generally takes a good 24 hours for me to recover from an exposure. The interesting thing is that in addition to the immediate physical reactions (headache, chills, the need to lay down right now, extreme sensitivity to sound and light) I have emotional reactions. Not just anger that this is happening to me, or depression because I can't go shopping or do things that other people can do. I get cranky and start using language that never used to come out of my mouth. I have no patience whatsoever. It's like I turn into a whole other person. (Can you say "Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde?") Eventually I have to take a nap or go to bed for the night. I have no choice; I fall asleep where I am. When I wake up I am depressed, but it's not the same kind of depressed that you might experience under other circumstances. I've learned to recognize this kind of depression, to differentiate it from the 'normal' depression. I have also learned to talk to myself gently when I'm in this state. If I feel able, I stitch. If I don't feel able I allow myself to veg in front of the TV or a movie. Another odd side effect of exposure is the inability to read. It's too much work; I can't concentrate. If I can find a safe magazine or picture book I can look at pictures but reading words is impossible. (I say "safe" because I'm finding the fumes from full-color printing is affecting me now. Or maybe it always has and I just never made the connection before.) So I'm pretty much useless for a good 24 hours after an exposure. Unless I can find something to stitch and have the energy to actually do it. Sewing is my salvation. It distracts me from my pain, it brings me back to myself when I feel scattered. The one thing I have yet to learn is to allow myself to stitch whatever I want to stitch, to sew whatever I want to sew, whether or not there is a reason for what I am doing.

This photo is one of my practice pictures. It is a pot of ranunculus I bought for myself a couple of weeks ago. I find them very cheerful and uplifting. I can see them as I eat breakfast in the morning, on the back deck of our house. A little bit of sunshine even on cloudy days!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Beading Round Robin blocks

I am a member of the CQ Embellishers Yahoo group. A subset of that group is doing a round robin project wherein we are to bead embellish crazy patched blocks for each other. There are two groups with about 6 people in each. I have just received these two blocks to work on. The block on the top has already been embellished by Joann; it belongs to Vivian. I will also do some beading on it and then I will send it on to Ellen. She will bead it some more and send it on to the next person. Eventually the block will make its' way back to Vivian at the end of the Round Robin. The block on the bottom is Joann's block. I will be the first one to embellish it. As you can see, we were allowed to make our blocks whatever size suited us and in whatever colors or theme we desired. It will be great fun to get these "mystery" projects in the mail and exercise my creative abilities on them! I already have something in mind for one of the patches on Joann's block :- ) I'm disciplining myself to work on hers first because if it weren't for her husband falling ill I would have received it first. I'm going to try not to be intimidated by the work that Joann did on Vivian's block! In fact, I'm going to try not to even look at Vivian's block again until Joann's is in the mail on its' way to Ellen ;- )

Monday, May 7, 2007

Hugs and Kisses for Reilly

This is my second journal quilt, still in the works. I decided to try free piecing X's and O's, and I had wanted to do a journal quilt about my studio dog Reilly. The dog image is cut from a Laurel Burch print. There's a smaller dog in the print that I think looks a little more like Reilly, who is a Miniature Poodle-Terrier mix, but it was too small for the composition. The fabric had actually been laying around for a couple of weeks (but had been in my stash much longer!). I knew I wanted to use it somehow, it just took a while to figure out how!

In this pic I have begun embellishing the bottom O. (Click on the image to get a REALLY LARGE close-up.) Since the picture was taken I have completed that beading. Now I have to figure out how I'm going to embellish "Reilly" to make him stand out visually as much as the letters do. I have some eyelash yarn I'm thinking of using. Beyond that I have no idea. I may also decide to try to beef up the beading on the X's. They seem a little wimpy compared to the O's. On the other hand, this is just a journal quilt and a learning experience. It might be better for me to leave them as is and learn from the experience!

Reilly is a lot rounder than Larel Burch's dog. He gets a pet or puppy Poodle trim every 6-8 weeks so his coat is short and curly. (And he's gray, not purple-blue.) We've let his ear hair grow long; it's mostly straight but waves at the ends. His tail is his greatest feature in my opinion. When he's happy or on full alert he holds it straight up and it sort of curls over his back. But the hair on his tail is looong and waves like a flag when his tail is moving. I love it! I'll have to try to get a picture of him in all his glory :- )

I'm having a real hard time getting anything done today. I felt great on Saturday, and accomplished a lot. Felt fine again yesterday but it was a quiet Sabbath day with no sewing. Today I just seem to have no energy at all. Developed a headache early this morning but it hasn't become serious (thank goodness). Can't decide whether this is diet induced or if putting out the trash this morning exposed me to something in the air that I wasn't aware of. The worst part of this condition is that I often can't even detect the toxins that make me ill. What's really weird is that, for me, chemical exposures can cause emotional depression, not just physical reactions. Sewing is usually a good antidote but I have to pick up that needle and thread first! Or have something ready to work on, something that doesn't require any thought or creative energy. It may be time to go piece some scraps together...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Preemie Quilts

Throughout the year members of my local quilt guild make quilts for babies in the neonatal intensive care units of our local hospitals. These preemie quilts are a minimum of 18" wide and 24" long to comfortably fit on top of the isolettes. You can imagine how they brighten up a sterile environment! Each quilt becomes a gift to the baby's parents. Sometimes when the infant does not survive it is the only tangible evidence of their baby that the parents have to take home with them.

This quilt...

and this quilt...

were made from orphan blocks I'd made in my early quilting career. Back then I would cut 2.5" squares from my fabrics as I used them in other projects. Eventually they were sewn into four patch units (on days when I needed to do some mindless sewing!) and then apparently abandoned while I went on to other things. As I am learning how to cope with my new health situation I have had time to go back through my old projects and bags of blocks. I'm having to make some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to pass on to someone else (or put in the trash). Some of those fabrics I bought in the early years are now hazardous to my health! Even though everything in my stash has been prewashed, some of those cheap fabrics have a sizing or something in them that off-gasses when hit with a hot iron. So out they go, no matter how much I like the color or the print! (In the early years I had three toddlers and no money so the $1.00 a yard cottons at Wal-Mart seemed like a good deal. Live and learn!)

Anyway, I was able to piece almost two preemie tops from just those four-patch units I made so many years ago. The pictures are actually in reverse order. I made the first one you see second and the second one you see first. I needed 6 more blocks to complete that second top (the one at the top of the page) so I dug around in my orphan block collection and found the pinwheels and the 16-patch block and the hourglass blocks and sewed them in randomly, only making sure I didn't have two of these "oddball" blocks in any one row. I think it's much more interesting than the one that is all four-patch blocks.

Below is the quilt that I referred to in my previous post. And as I said before, this one is my favorite of this batch. I made it from scratch, as it were, not from leftover blocks. Although it is almost completely created out of scraps. Nearly all of the strips were leftovers from projects of mine or friends of mine. When I got to the outer edges I had to break down and cut strips from yardage to get the lengths I needed in the colors I needed. (There are more strips and scraps of duller colors waiting to be dealt with someday.)

I piece my tops, back 'em with flannel, and do minimal quilting to hold the two layers together. All of these have been "stitched in the ditch" in a rectangle in the center of the quilt. Rather than bind them I finish them pillow style and then top stitch around the perimeter of the quilt, sometimes using a decorative stitch on my sewing machine.

Sometimes I fret that I don't make "pretty" or "cute" quilts for these babies. I just don't do pretty or cute! It's unnatural for me! Hopefully there are families that come in who appreciate these funky creations of mine. Even better, maybe the strong colors and busy prints provide energy and stimulation for the little souls trying so hard to survive. I sure hope so.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ta Da!

My first picture uploaded! Hurray for me!

This is a detail shot of a preemie quilt I made recently. As soon as I learn how to fine tune the image of the whole quilt I'll share that with you.

I think this preemie quilt turned out pretty cool. It moves from a crazy patch block to one giant Log Cabin-type block with every strip being a different color/print. I'd been wanting to try this particular design style for a long time. It was fun to actually do it and have it turn out so well (in my eyes at least!). It may be hard to part with this one ;- )

Yesterday I went to the La Conner Quilt Museum to see the exhibit of Gwen Marsten and Freddy Moran's collaborative quilts. I lucked out in that there were only a handful of other people there and no-one was wearing toxic fragrance. The color in those quilts sure brightened up the place! Lots of gorgeous reds (Freddy uses red as a neutral; works for me!) and tons of fun prints. There was actually one quilt that hurt my eyes to look at. Those who know me well will be surprised to learn this because I love bright saturated colors. The truly odd thing about this is that it was one of the calmer quilts. I think what was happening was the juxtaposition of red and yellow was aggravating my astigmatism. Other than that I can't account for it. Suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see these quilts by two of my favorite quilters/artists in person. If only I'd been able to go on opening day when both Freddy and Gwen were there!!! {sigh}

On my way home I still felt well enough (in spite of the absence of obvious toxins, something in that building makes me ill; that's why I had to quit working there) to stop in at my LQS where they are celebrating their anniversary with a sale (fancy that!). I was able to buy Gwen and Freddy's book, Collaborative Quilting, and a few pieces of fabrics at 20% off. Let's see... I bought a red batik, a funky stripe of red and orange and green and black, a yellow/orange batik, and a multi-color on black print in Robert Kaufman's "Color Quake" line. All very bright and happy :- )

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Still No Pix

Sorry about that. May have to get DH to give me a show-and-tell lesson. Seems I'm too distracted/busy/lazy/fuzzed-out to read the directions in the owner's manual and learn how to do it all by myself!

I have recently finished a baby quilt for a commission, and then a small companion pillow. Next I will be creating the top and back of a dorm quilt for the same client. Then it will go to a professional long-arm quilter for lovely stitching, and back to me for binding. The baby quilt was only two fabrics, both flannel. The top and the back were essentially two giant Puss in the Corner blocks, done in postive/negative colorway. Turned out pretty cute but the flannel was not fun to work with. I've done it before but it was always for myself and I'd choose patterns that didn't require precise piecing specifically because of the nature of flannel (it shifts rather like velvet does). Working for someone else I naturally wanted to do the best job I could! Fortunately the dorm quilt is plain old cotton and the piecing couldn't be simpler: five stripes of two fabrics (three of one and two of the other).

On a more fun note - for me, at least - I've been busy beading my second journal quilt. I'm doing the standard 8 1/2" x 11" vertical format and have challenged myself to use my favorite shade of green in each of them. My goal is 12 quilts, one a month. I have allowed for Life to get in the way and will settle for 10 if that is what needs to happen to keep me on an even keel. I'm working improvisationally on each one. Trying to learn to hear what my soul wants to do instead of always working to someone else's parameters. This will also be an opportunity to practice keeping the inner critic at bay!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Purpose of This Blog...

I mentioned in my previous post that I wanted to share what I do with others. I also want to have a source of accountability for myself. So very many times I say I want to do one thing or another for my own benefit and then it doesn't happen. Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes it's pure avoidance. This will be where I hold myself accountable for those things that I say I want to do.

The other aspect of this blog will be to educate the reader about the ups and downs of life as a chemically sensitive individual in the 21st century. Hopefully that will be kept to a minimum as it is not especially uplifting. It is, however, a major factor of my life now and impacts every moment of every day. For example, I need to re-cover my design wall so I can take photographs of my quilts and works-in-progress to share with you. It is currently covered in a light yellow flannel. That hasn't been an issue for me as I've worked on projects but I figure it could pose challenges in photography. Sixty inch wide white flannel isn't as easy to come by as I had hoped it would be! One twin sheet will cost me $16.00 plus shipping. I can get 45" wide flannel but then I'd have a seam running down the middle of my design wall. I can get 90" wide flannel but then it's way bigger than the spot I have for my design wall (there's an electric wall heater on that wall; I'd just as soon not start any fires!). I did find a 54" wide flannel but I'm concerned it will shrink more than I want it to when I wash it. And I will have to wash it to remove any fragrances it may have picked up along the way and to remove the chemicals used in the finishing processes. I briefly thought about using a needlepunched cotton batting but it will also have to be laundered and they don't recommend doing that until it's in the middle of a quilt! Polyester needlepunched batting is out because it's polyester (petrochemical byproduct: boo, hiss). So for the moment I'm thinking 90", wash it, cut it down. Maybe even hem the raw edges if I get ambitious (ha!). We'll see.

I took a few pictures with the new digital camera but still have to learn how to get them into the computer and onto the blog. ;- )